Need For Speed: A Study In Knitting Positions

Apr 05

I’ve been looking to switch up my knitting style for awhile. Try some different hand positions for speed and to avoid The Carps. e.g., Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. I’ve found my knitting style has evolved over the years, naturally getting more efficient. However, the other day in class, I saw a lady knitting so fast her hands blurred! So I decided to take a closer look at the various ways a knitter can step up their knitting game! I trolled the internet, watched a bunch of videos. Here’s what I found.

Continental vs. American/English Knitting Styles
Here is another video also demonstrating Continental vs. English.

Knitting Styles
There are many knitting styles depending on who taught you and where you’re from! To begin, here’s a couple of the more popular ones, mainly in North America, to consider:

English – I’m a “righty” and an American Style or English Style Knitter. So I hold the the yarn coming from the yarn ball or “working yarn” in my Right Hand and throw the yarn over the needle. This motion is known as Throwing. These two characteristics together, Right Hand Yarn and Throwing, define English Style Knitting. Depending on your hand/yarn position and needle position, the throwing action required in American/English Style Knitting can be more or less efficient in turn affecting the knitting speed.

Continental – In Continental Style or European Style or German Style Knitting the working yarn is held in the Left Hand, the same side as the needle where all the stitches are hanging from or the “live stitches”. The action here resembles more of the hooking motion in Crochet and is called Picking. These two characteristics together, Left Hand Yarn and Picking, define Continental Style Knitting. Since these hand positions and the motion are naturally closer together with less wasted movement it is, in general, where the efficiency comes from.

Knitting Variations
There are infinite variations that can happen on top of the knitting styles shown above which can also contribute to your personal style and/or knitting speed! I broke them down into two groups which I call:

Primary Variations or Stance – The style in which you can hold the needles, hold the working yarn, and wrap the yarn on your fingers which affect both tension and throwing position.

Secondary Variations or Swing – Your motions while knitting like hand motion, finger motion, and needle positions in motion.

All combine to make your personal style of knitting and/or ideally the most effective style of knitting to achieve speed! Among these 2 major groups lies the 4 major factors that are the key. Let’s take a closer look!

English Close-Up – Regular Hold + Throwing Action

Style #1: English
Working Yarn: Right Hand
Needle Hold: Regular or Overhand
Looping Action: Throwing
Yarn Tension: Freeform (Your Thumb and Pointer Finger adjust the tension. No finger wrapping. The yarn dangles.)

Continental Close-Up – Regular Hold + Picking Action

Style #2: Continental
Working Yarn: Left Hand
Needle Hold: Regular or Overhand (Your hand wraps over the needle and grips. The needles rest against your palms inside your hand. Think about gripping the handle bars on your bicycle.)
Looping Action: Picking
Yarn Tension: Finger Wrap with yarn over the Pointer Finger

English – Regular Hold + Throwing Action + Finger Wraps

Tension or Finger Wraps. In this video she is doing the same as in the previous video, English – Regular Hold + Throwing. But her Finger Wraps are different. Notice how the working yarn is wrapped different on her fingers compared to the yarn wrap above. The previous video is double wraps around the Pointer Finger going over her finger. This one uses multiple wraps around the Pointer Finger and Middle Finger. Go back to the video #1 and watch her Finger Wraps again to see yet another variation. Although the variations can be subtle, Finger Wraps vary greatly and can influence your throwing motion.

English – Pencil Hold + Throwing Action

Needle Hold. Here we see her holding the needles differently. The working needle in her Right Hand rests on top of her hand between her Thumb and Pointer Finger rather than inside her palm. Like a pencil! Watch the working needle, it never drops from her hand. Instead just keeps making a sliding motion when stitching. This slight deviation in just the needle hold greatly affect efficiency. Skip back to video #1. You can see a more pronounced difference during the Throwing Action. She drops the working needle, moves the working yarn over it, then picks up the working needle again to complete the stitch.

More Examples To Study

Peruvian Knitting for Speed
English – Pencil Hold + Throwing Action + Finger Wraps

Broken down it’s basically English + Pencil Hold + Throwing Action + Finger Wraps. Here we see all of the factors described above put together. Notice her Needle Hold. Also, notice how she wraps the working yarn in her Right Hand around her fingers to begin. She also nicely demonstrates Pencil Hold. Now skip back to video #3. You can see the Hold in video #3 is actually a cross between Overhand and Pencil. She holds the needle like a pencil between her Thumb and Ring Finger but the needle rests against her palm inside her hand. So the throwing action is less pronounced. More efficient.

Yarn Harlot Knitting
English – Pencil Hold + Throwing Action + Finger Wraps

All of the above and FAST! Her technique is very similar to the above Peruvian Knit Style. Broken down it is – English + Pencil Hold + Throwing Action + Finger Wraps. But notice her Finger Wraps. She weaves the yarn between her fingers but wraps it over her Ring Finger! Then she keeps her hand positions in place and barely moves them during the Throwing Action. The yarn, the needle, her hands do not have to move much or far. Making the throwing motion even more efficient. Less gestures and shorter distances!

Key Motion: Make an OK sign with your fingers, then imagine holding the needle in Pencil Hold and wrapping the yarn over your Ring Finger. The yarn will trail from your Ring Finger. Then leave your fingers as is. Keeping them in that position at all times even during the Throwing Action. The Throwing Action is then achieved by sliding your hand slightly forward following your needle and flicking your fingers up slightly to move the yarn over the needle, slide back bringing the needle with you and complete your stitch.

Advanced Motion: When she’s warmed up her entire hand opens up during the Throwing Action, kind of like making a shooing motion.

Very efficient! Her moves are as condensed as possible! And distances traveled as short as possible! It’s not the angle of the needles like the lady says in the video, the angle is just a byproduct of what she’s trying to do – minimize motion and distance that is most important to notice here. Introducing the 4th and final factor, Motion Factor!

More English + Pencil Hold + Throwing Action. Yet another demo with a much clearer close-up view. Similar to Yarn Harlot but with a slightly different Finger Wrap.

Fastest Knitters In The World
Miriam Tegals, Hazel Tindall, and many more.

Notice her technique – Regular Hold and what looks like Continental (or Picking Action) with Finger Wraps beginning from the Pinky. I can’t see where her working yarn trails from but either way. She deviates from the all of the above entirely. Yet still knits like lightning. So here’s where the 4th factor comes in again – the mix of her the Primary Variations combined with the mix of the Secondary Variations for Motion – or what I’ll call the Motion (X) Factor! Minimizing motions. This factor not only includes the overall hand motions and their efficiency but also the knitter themselves, everything from time spent knitting to their hands to their gestures to the fibers and needles too!

Portuguese Style Knitting

Also known as Middle Eastern Style. This style switches it up even more. It is neither Continental nor English. Notice the working yarn hold and position in this technique. It is positioned around the neck or on a yarn pin worn on your lapel. It changes the way the knitter stitches as well as the Throwing Action or in this case the Picking Action. The movement is even more efficient! It’s fast and illustrates the Motion Factor again.

Round Up and The Four Major Factors!
There are many knitting styles depending on who taught you and where you’re from! But no matter what the style or country of origin, it boiled down these four major factors. What do you think? Hopefully, this will help you find your ideal combination of knitting techniques to achieve supersonic speed!

Hold or Needle Hold
The way the working needle (or the empty needle) is held. e.g., Regular/Overhand Hold or Pencil Hold. This includes how close your fingers are to the needle tips or how much you “choke up”. Stance.

Action or Needle Action
Throwing or Picking. i.e., English or Continental? The way the working needle loops the stitches. This is different than the Motion (X) Factor because it only applies to the needle in relation to the yarn. How does the needle grab the yarn? Does the yarn move to wrap over the needle? Or does the needle move to grab the yarn instead? Stance.

Tension or Finger Wraps
The way the working yarn (the yarn from the ball) is held. How uniformly does the yarn feed through? Also, the finger the yarn trails from and its orientation – over the finger or under the finger etc. Stance.

Motion or Combined Motion (X) Factor
Given the above 3 factors + How your hands move during the Needle Action. e.g., The types of hand gestures, the distance your fingers must move, how many hands/fingers/needles must move, then all the remaining X factors like the human factor and everything from knitting experience to their hands to the fibers to needle sizes/materials. This gives you your Swing.

All the above factors combined give you your efficiency and thus your speed, stitches per minute! My focus is on efficiency like distance your hands, needles, and yarn have to travel and how many moves they each must make. I do not take into account at all whether you’re a Lefty or a Righty. Nor do I take into account what hand holds the working yarn. It’s all relative. Whatever your Stance, as long as your Swing makes the best use of it. Or vice versa, whatever your preferred Swing is fine as long as your Stance can accommodate it. Lastly, trial and error to find your perfect combo and practice! Practice on its own will naturally result in your knitting style evolving and condensing. It’s my own version of Combination Knitting. My first try will be closest to Peruvian Knitting or Yarn Harlot Style!

Fastest Knitters in the World
Check out this You-Tube page for more of the fastest knitters in the world from North America to Germany where some hit 300 stitches per minute. Note the movements are condensed and slight. All working yarns and stitches are close to the needle tips etc. Efficient.

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6 Responses to “Need For Speed: A Study In Knitting Positions”

  1. Alice says:

    Ravelry has a nice discussion page on all sorts of knitting styles like pit knitting, English, Lever, cottage, continental, Peruvian, Portuguese, flicking, Russian, and combined…

    http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/techniques/2257101/1-25

  2. [...] Need For Speed: A Study In Knitting Positions [...]

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  5. Jennie E says:

    I just wanted to say thanks for this posting. I’ve been wanting to knit faster for a while, and this will really help me. Good luck with your speed, too.

    • Alice says:

      Hi Jennie!

      I have been trying my hand at different styles in my latest knitting forays. It’s really difficult to switch up after all these years! Discombobulating! Hopefully I’ll find the perfect (and speediest) new style for me! It will sure come in handy especially since I have to make so many samples for some new designs I’m trying for myself. It’s alot of knitting so any extra speed is welcome!

      And good luck to you too! Would love to hear your current style and how you fare too! Happy Knitting!!

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